How To Temper Chocolate For All Your Chocolatey Holiday Treats

Whether on the stovetop or in the microwave, here’s how to get that solid, smooth, cracking chocolate.

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How to temper chocolate for peppermint chocolate snaps

Photo, Erik Putz.

Tempering is the process of melting chocolate so it will be firm when cooled and crisp when broken. A digital thermometer makes tempering a lot easier. Here’s how to do it:

Why you should use cacao butter to temper chocolate

When tempering chocolate, it’s good practice to add cacao butter to chocolate that contains milk solids. Often sold in blocks or chunks, this pure fat will thin the consistency of chocolate for easy dipping and coating. (If you’re simply drizzling chocolate over the cookie, cacao butter isn’t needed.)

How to temper chocolate on the stove

1. Place three-quarters of chopped chocolate in a glass or metal bowl set over a saucepan of simmering water. (The bowl should cover the entire rim of the saucepan, but the bottom shouldn’t touch the water.) Place a digital thermometer in the chocolate and stir frequently with a rubber spatula.

2. The temperature of the chocolate should not exceed 105F. When the chocolate is halfway melted, remove the bowl from the heat and continue to stir until fully melted. (Carefully wipe the bottom of the bowl to get rid of any condensation.)

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3. Stir in remaining chocolate and cacao butter (if called for in the recipe), one small handful at a time. Let it melt before adding more chocolate or cacao butter.

4. Let the chocolate cool to 89F to 90F for dark chocolate and 85F to 87F for milk or white chocolate. You’re aiming for smooth, glossy chocolate. Cool the chocolate by stirring. (Do not put it in the refrigerator or freezer.) If the chocolate cools too fast, place the bowl back over the simmering water until it reaches the desired temperature.

5. Use the chocolate immediately, as it will start to firm up as it cools.

How to temper chocolate in the microwave

1. Place three-quarters of chopped chocolate in a microwave-safe bowl. Microwave on medium for 1 min. Remove from microwave and stir well with a rubber spatula.

2. Return bowl to microwave and heat on medium for 15-sec intervals. Remove, stir well and check the temperature after each interval. (The chocolate should not exceed 105F.) When the chocolate is almost completely melted, remove the bowl from the microwave and stir until smooth.

3. Stir in remaining chocolate and cacao butter (if called for in the recipe), one small handful at a time. Let it melt before adding more chocolate or cacao butter.

4. Let the chocolate cool to 89F to 90F for dark chocolate and 85F to 87F for milk or white chocolate. If it’s too warm, keep stirring to cool it down. (Do not put it in the refrigerator or freezer.) If the chocolate cools too much, place the bowl back in the microwave and reheat on medium in 5- to 10-sec intervals until it reaches the desired temperature. Chocolate should be glossy and smooth.

5. Use the chocolate immediately, as it will start to firm up as it cools.

Use candy wafers instead of tempered chocolate

Candy wafers, or candy melts, can be used as a substitute for chocolate. They don’t need tempering and can be melted in a microwave. Substitute the same weight of chocolate as called for in the recipe. Place your candy wafers in a microwave- safe bowl and melt them in the microwave on medium for about 1 min. Stir until melted, then microwave for an additional 30 sec if needed. Continue with recipe.

What to do with leftover tempered chocolate

Any leftover chocolate can be spread over a sheet of parchment paper, cooled and stored for another use.

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